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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 267 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

my experience in the courts from 1979 onwards, I cannot think of any instance when any power the court had was misused to the detriment of a proper defence. I would hope that Mr Stanhope, being the civil libertarian he is, is not casting a slur on our courts. I am sure he is not. I reiterate that no-one, none of the agencies, including the courts, which are the ultimate arbitrators of this provision, have any problems with it. It is a commonsense provision.

Mr Stanhope's proposal refers to offensive purposes. That is vague. That could be interpreted very broadly. A lot of work has gone into our provision. It is a commonsense provision. It has already been put into legislation. No-one has complained about it. Everyone is happy with it. If anything is slightly wrong or slightly controversial, someone from the agencies as diverse as the DPP, Legal Aid, the courts and the police will come up with objections.

Our proposals have gone through two Attorneys-General. Stakeholders comment quite often, and there are differing views on proposed legislative changes, depending on a person's perspective. That is quite reasonable. There has been no difficulty with this type of provision. It is not going to cause anyone great concern. It has flexibility. Commonsense is used in situations like this, and the court has the ultimate say in the interpretation of this law. The courts have no problems with this, so I commend it to the Assembly.

I do not think Mr Stanhope's amendments will assist. In fact, they are more confusing and would take us back to when definitions appearing in the Crimes Act at various sections did not help the situation. This certainly clarifies it. It is simpler. On the advice I have from all the agencies, it is simply not a problem.

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members, though the bill was introduced by Mr Humphries, Mr Stefaniak is now the Attorney-General. I propose to recognise Mr Stefaniak as the minister in charge of the bill, if that is the wish of the Assembly. I am sure it is. That being so, that is the course we will be following.

MS TUCKER (4.30): I want to correct something I said when this debate started. I was concerned that there was a change to the definition of loaded weapon, but I realise now that I misunderstood that. To clarify it for the record, I do not think that is the case. But new concerns have been raised. New concerns raised by Labor and covered by minor amendments seem to be quite significant. I listened to Mr Stefaniak and to Mr Stanhope, and I have talked to legal practitioners who are supportive of Mr Stanhope's proposal and who feel that there is an inexactness which could possibly be used in some way which is not desirable.

Mr Stefaniak said that he thought it would be a retrograde step to support Jon Stanhope's amendments, because it would bring back confusion. I do not see how that is possible if it is just the definition. He is improving the definition by making sure that the concept of intent is connected to the thing that could be used as an offensive weapon. It seems to me that there is no way that that could be a problem. It improves the definition. I do not know whether this is just a case of having to win for the sake of it. If it is consistent, it will not bring back confusion. There will still be one definition, as I understand it, which is what you want.

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